Medieval castles in Switzerland

Bubikon Castle

Bubikon Castle (Ritterhaus Bubikon) is a former commandery, a medieval monastery of the Knights Hospitaller. Assumably in compensation of claims related to the Alt-Rapperswil lands and rights, a change of goods occurred between the Counts of Toggenburg and Counts of Rapperswil probably in the early 1190s. To end the disputes about the legacy, the Knights Hospitaller abbey and commandry was given by Diethelm V ...
Founded: 1190s | Location: Bubikon, Switzerland

Chillon Castle

Chillon Castle is an island castle located on Lake Geneva. It is situated at the eastern end of the lake, on the narrow shore between Montreux and Villeneuve, which gives access to the Alpine valley of the Rhone. Chillon is amongst the most visited castles in Switzerland and Europe. Chillon began as a Roman outpost, guarding the strategic road through the Alpine passes. The later history of Chillon was influ ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Veytaux, Switzerland

Wörth Castle

The Wörth water castle is built on a small island in the Rhine river at the municipality of Neuhausen am Rheinfall, opposite of the Laufen Castle in the canton of Zürich. Wörth was first mentioned in the 13th century, serving up to the middle of the 19th century as a major transhipment point on the east-west trade route, that led from Lake Constance and Basel, and was interrupted by the Rheinfall waterfalls. Th ...
Founded: 1348 | Location: Neuhausen am Rheinfall, Switzerland

Colombier Castle

Colombier Castle was built in the 11th or 12th century as a fortified tower over the ruins of the Roman villa. It expanded in the 13th Century and by the 16th century had reached its present appearance.  One of the largest Roman era villas in Switzerland was excavated from under the castle in 1840-42 by Frédéric Dubois de Montperreux. It was built in multiple stages between the 1st and 3rd centuries AD into a palat ...
Founded: 11th century | Location: Colombier, Switzerland

Bottmingen Castle

Dating from the 13th century, Bottmingen castle is one of the few such buildings in Switzerland that are still intact. The first recorded mention dates from 1363, when it was owned by the Kämmerer family. These aristocratic servants to the Bishops of Basel are thought to have built the castle. In 1720, Johannes Deucher transformed the castle into an early-Baroque country manor in the French style. Although this structure ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Bottmingen, Switzerland

Avenches Castle

Dating back to the 13th century, the castle of Avenches features a renovated Renaissance-style façade, one of the most beautiful testimonies of this type of architecture in Switzerland. Today, the castle accommodates offices, classrooms, a theatre, an art gallery and a library. Located next door to the arenas, the castle of Avenches dominates the capital of Roman Switzerland. This public and historic building boasts an ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Avenches, Switzerland

Rapperswil Castle

Rapperswil Castle was built in the early 13th century AD by the House of Rapperswil. It is surrounded on three sides by the Lake Zürich and by those upper section on the northwestern Seedamm area. Thus, the castle was well protected, dominating the old town of Rapperswil, and controlling the water way between Walensee and Lake Zürich on its most narrow part, as well as the medieval Gotthard Pass route betwee ...
Founded: 1200-1220 | Location: Rapperswil-Jona, Switzerland

Laufen Castle

Laufen Castle is a castle in the municipality of Laufen-Uhwiesen in the Swiss canton of Zurich. It is a Swiss heritage site of national significance overlooking the Rhine Falls. The first documented reference to the castle dates to the year 858 when it was the home of the Barons of Laufen. It passed through several owners until the Old Zürich War (1439-1450) when the castle was acquired by the Fulach family, ...
Founded: 9th century AD | Location: Laufen-Uhwiesen, Switzerland

Alt-Regensberg Castle Ruins

Alt-Regensberg Castle was built about the mid-11th century AD by the House of Regensberg in the municipality of Regensdorf. The decline in importance of the castle had been shown already in the Old Zürich War, when Zürich"s opponent Alt-Regensberg occupied without resistance. Later the ruins served as a quarry. The quadratic keep dates from the first construction phase. The exterior of the residential tower ...
Founded: 11th century | Location: Regensdorf, Switzerland

Lucens Castle

Lucens Castle"s strategic location allowed it to control the Broye valley, which was an important transit corridor. Starting in the Middle Ages and until 1536 it was a residence of the Bishop of Lausanne and served to control the Bishop"s land in the Broye valley. During the 12th century, the castle was repeatedly destroyed and rebuilt. In 1476, it was destroyed by the Swiss Confederation. In 1536 the val ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Lucens, Switzerland

La Sarraz Castle

Built in 1049 on a rocky spur between Morges and Yverdon-les-Bains, La Sarraz Castle dominates the Vaudois countryside. Now a museum, it includes a collection of valuable objects acquired over the centuries by the generations of La Sarraz barons. From its construction until it was turned into a museum, La Sarraz Castle has always belonged to the barons of La Sarraz, unlike the majority of castles that pass from hand to h ...
Founded: 1049 | Location: La Sarraz, Switzerland

Freudenberg Castle Ruins

The Freudenberg castle was one of the largest castles in region. The main castle dates from the first half of the 13th century and consists of a keep with a trapezoid floor plan. The curtain wall was 80m long and 60m wide and protected by a round tower in the southwest corner. The castle was built by the Lords of Wildenberg. Later it was owned by several families and the imperial Austria. Because of a dispute over ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Bad Ragaz, Switzerland

Sargans Castle

Beginning in 982 the Sargans region was part of the lands of the Counts of Bregenz. In 1160, the male line of the Counts of Bregenz died out. Count palatine Hugo of Türbingen inherited most of their lands, through his wife Elisabeth. His son, Hugo, inherited the Bregenz lands around Lake Constance, including Sargans. This Hugo, who adopted the name Montfort und Werdenberg built or expanded Sargans Castle before ...
Founded: 1282 | Location: Sargans, Switzerland

Valangin Castle

Valangin castle was a residence of the local lords from mid-12th century to 1566. The oldest visible remains date from the 13th century. It consists of a courtyard surrounded by a rampart and a 'donjon' (keep), which hosts the current museum. Since 1430 the castle was altered with semicircular towers to be defended against the firearms. The castle was damaged by fire in 1747 which destroyed a whole wing. The ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Valangin, Switzerland

Hohenklingen Castle

The history of Hohenklingen castle is closely linked to the small town Stein am Rhein and the monastery St. Georgen. Around 1200, Walter von Klingen erected a residential tower on the site of the present castle. Around 1460, the battlements against firearms were installed.  In 1499, at the time of the Swabian war, and from 1618 to 1648 during the Thirty Years" War, the castle played an important role and was en ...
Founded: c. 1200 | Location: Stein am Rhein, Switzerland

Werdenberg Castle

Werdenberg castle was founded around 1228-1230 by Count Rudolf I of Montfort. Today, the architectural complex comprises two museums – one in the castle and one in the town – that tell the 800-year history of the rulers and their subjects. Three of the epochs – the times of the counts, the governors of Glarus and that of the well-to-do Hilty family – are effectively displayed in the castle. The Museum Schlangenhau ...
Founded: 1228 | Location: Werdenberg, Switzerland

Vaumarcus Castle

Vaumarcus Castle is a medieval castle, which hosts today a shopping center. Vaumarcus is a good example of the transformation, which took place in most castles in the 13th century when they were protected to defend agains new weapons, such as throwing machines. There was initially an entrance to the castle more than 7 m above ground level. It was undoubtedly reached from the outside by a wooden stairs, which were remov ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Vaumarcus, Switzerland

Neu-Homburg Castle Ruins

Homburg or Neu-Homburg Castle was the seat of the Froberg family since the 13th century until it was destroyed in 1798. Count Hermann IV of Frohburg settled in 1240 in the Läufelfingen valley. The castle was built by Hermann. The Bishop of Basel acquired Homburg in 1303 and built a new castle with the mighty residential tower as the seat of his Vogts. After the French Revolution, many of the rural people rebelled agains ...
Founded: c. 1240 | Location: Läufelfingen, Switzerland

Wartau Castle

The area around Wartau was first settled around 9000 years ago, culminating in neolithic settlements on the nearby Ochsenberg and Prochna Burg at about 3000 BC. A Merovingian fortress was built at Prochna Burg, but was destroyed around 750. While there are no written records that mention the first owner of the castle or when it was built, the wooden beams in the castle have been dated to about 1225. It was probably ...
Founded: c. 1225 | Location: Wartau, Switzerland

Vufflens Castle

Vufflens castle was built in 1425 on the site of a previous medieval castle by Henri de Colombier. It is the most significant example of a small group of fortified Romandy castles from the middle ages, characterised above all by its brick construction. In 1530, it was set on fire by Bernese troops. In 1641 it was acquired by the de Senarclens family. The castle is currently privately owned and cannot be visited. A plea ...
Founded: 1425 | Location: Vufflens-le-Château, Switzerland

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Königstein Fortress

Königstein Fortress is located on the left bank of the River Elbe. It is one of the largest hilltop fortifications in Europe. The 9.5 hectare rock plateau rises 240 metres above the Elbe and has over 50 buildings, some over 400 years old, that bear witness to the military and civilian life in the fortress. The rampart run of the fortress is 1,800 metres long with walls up to 42 metres high and steep sandstone faces. In the centre of the site is a 152.5 metre deep well, which is the deepest in Saxony and second deepest well in Europe.

The fortress, which for centuries was used as a state prison, is still intact and is now one of Saxony's foremost tourist attractions, with 700,000 visitors per year.

By far the oldest written record of a castle on the Königstein is found in a deed by King Wenceslas I of Bohemia dating to the year 1233. It is probable that there had been a stone castle on the Königstein as early as the 12th century. The oldest surviving structure today is the castle chapel built at the turn of the 13th century. In the years 1563 to 1569 the 152.5 metre deep well was bored into the rock within the castle - until that point the garrison of the Königstein had to obtain water from cisterns and by collecting rainwater.

Between 1589 and 1591/97 Prince-Elector Christian I of Saxony and his successor had the castle developed into the strongest fortification in Saxony. The hill was now surrounded with high walls. Buildings were erected, including the Gatehouse (Torhaus), the Streichwehr, the Old Barracks (Alte Kaserne), the Christiansburg (Friedrichsburg) and the Old Armoury (Altes Zeughaus). The second construction period followed from 1619 to 1681, during which the John George Bastion was built. The third construction period is seen as the time from 1694 to 1756, which included the expansion of the Old Barracks. From 1722 to 1725, at the behest of August the Strong, coopers under Böttger built the enormous Königstein Wine Barrel, the greatest wine barrel in the world, in the cellar of the Magdalenenburg which had a capacity of 249,838 litres. It cost 8,230 thalers, 18 groschen and 9 pfennigs. The butt, which was once completely filled with country wine from the Meißen vineyards, had to be removed again in 1818 due to its poor condition. Because of Böttger, Königstein Fortress is also the site where European porcelain started.

Even after the expansion during those periods of time there continued to be modifications and additions on the extensive plateau. The Treasury (Schatzhaus) was built from 1854 to 1855. After the fortress had been incorporated in 1871 into the fortification system of the new German Empire, battery ramparts were constructed from 1870 to 1895 with eight firing points, that were to have provided all-round defence for the fortress in case of an attack that, in the event, never came. This was at this time that the last major building work was done on the fortress.

Because Königstein Fortress was regarded as unconquerable, the Saxon monarchs retreated to it from Wittenberg and later Dresden during times of crisis and also deposited the state treasure and many works of art from the famous Zwinger here; it was also used as a country retreat due to its lovely surroundings.

The fortress played an important role in the History of Saxony, albeit less as a result of military action. The Saxon Dukes and Prince-Electors used the fortress primarily as a secure refuge during times of war, as a hunting lodge and maison de plaisance, but also as a dreaded state prison. Its actual military significance was rather marginal.

Since 1955 the fortress has been an open-air, military history museum of high touristic value.